A 28-year-old man is facing a rare criminal charge after police say he knowingly made a lewd comment during a live television broadcast following Sunday’s Raptors game in Toronto.
Tristan Warkentin was among a group of fans approached for an interview by a CP24 reporter outside the Scotiabank Arena on Sunday night, following Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors.
Police say the group was advised that the segment would be broadcast live on television, and was asked to act politely.
When the reporter asked about the atmosphere in the Jurassic Park fan area that evening, police say Mr. Warkentin leaned into the microphone and shouted a profane and sexually inappropriate comment directly into the camera before running off. In a video clip of the exchange, the other fans around him are seen shaking their heads as the reporter apologizes.
The clip went viral, partly because the comment was directed specifically at celebrity Ayesha Curry, the wife of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (who had scored 23 points in Sunday’s win over the Raptors).
On Wednesday, Mr. Warkentin was charged with mischief by interfering with the lawful operation of property.
The case was the latest in a trend of similar incidents, though rare in that it resulted in a criminal charge.
In Toronto in May, 2015, a CityNews reporter was harassed when male fans yelled a similar crude remark at her while she delivered a live news broadcast outside a TFC soccer game in Toronto. One of the men, who was identified on social media after the video went viral, was fired from his job at Hydro One, though he was later reinstated.
In Halifax in December, 2017, a CTV Atlantic reporter was broadcasting live from a downtown pub during a hockey game when a man made a crude gesture and uttered a sexually explicit comment. He ultimately took responsibility for his actions through restorative justice and agreed to community service, and the reporter said she was satisfied with the process.
This past February, a CBC journalist was delivering a story at a downtown Toronto comedy bar when a man came up behind him and licked him on the back of the neck, on live TV. In that case, the reporter filed a police complaint. The man ultimately apologized and said he needs help to treat mental-health issues.
The difference in this case, Toronto Police spokeswoman Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook said, is that Mr. Warkentin was specifically advised that he would be on live television and had agreed to be polite.
“He disrupted the broadcast,” she said.
In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Mr. Warkentin blamed his behaviour on alcohol. “I’m not in a position to defend myself in terms of what happened. I am sure you understand the influence of alcohol,” he is quoted as saying. “What I did was disgraceful; it was an alcohol-influenced situation.”
Mr. Warkentin was released by police on a promise to appear. He will return to court in July.
Constable Douglas-Cook said she hopes the case will be a deterrent for anyone thinking of pulling such a stunt, particularly as Toronto heads into Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
“It’s offensive, it’s obscene,” she said.
Daniel Brown, a criminal lawyer in Toronto, said it’s possible that prosecution will not be pursued or successful, but he agreed that the charge alone could be an effective deterrent.
“Perhaps the notoriety of being criminally charged … will send a message to others,” he said. “It really is irrelevant whether the Crown is successful in the prosecution. Simply being accused is probably enough to deter others from engaging in similar behaviour.”